April 15, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers small forward Luke Babbitt (8) controls the rebound between Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22), center Chuck Hayes (42) and shooting guard Francisco Garcia (32) during the second quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

A Royal Pain’s Sacramento Kings 2012-13 Season Preview – Part 1 of 3


It seems like ages ago when the Sacramento Kings closed the book on their 2011-12 season, capping of the difficult campaign with a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. In those few short months, King fans have been treated to a roller coaster of a ride – including a debacle with the arena naming rights, relocation rumors and incompetent owners who refuse to commit to the city and fans. Getting back to basketball couldn’t be a more welcome change and that’s exactly what we have plans for.

Coach Smart and the crew are a little over a mile high now, ready to open their training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs this Wednesday and we here at A Royal Pain are ready to open up our season as well. While we’ll have individual reports on each player before the Kings open this season October 31st in Chicago against the Bulls, we’re going to start with our overall season preview – a collection of thoughts from the A Royal Pain team. Marilyn (an extra thanks for helping put this together), Scott, Matt and I each looked into our purple crystal balls (I might have shook mine a few times) to see what the Kings’ 2012-2013 season holds. So without further ado…

  • Best Offensive Player:
  1. ScottDeMarcus Cousins. It’s a tough call between Cousins and Marcus Thornton, but the big man should take another step forward and already stepped up last year as a clutch performer. He’s an underrated passer who can orchestrate some offense from the post , and if he can improve his decision making, DMC can become one of the top offensive players in the league.
  2. Matt - While he may not be as gifted offensively as Tyreke Evans or Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins could be in for a big year offensively. Coming off a sophomore season in which he was 2nd on the team in scoring (18.1 PPG), only behind Marcus Thornton (18.7). Now Thornton will come off the bench, likely resulting in a drop in production. After a long offseason of improving his low post game and endurance, Cousins could put up a 20-10 season.
  3. Marilyn – Well, this is a tough one. It is a tossup among Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, and Tyreke Evans, but I am going to say Marcus Thornton. He is ranked among the top shooting guards in the Western Conference, with a PER of 17.55. He averages 18.7 points per game, with a total shooting percentage of .544. More importantly, he has the mentality of an assassin.
  4. Bryan – This is subjective call, mainly on how one deems one as “best”. Is best most efficient? In that case, you’d be trying to pick between Isaiah Thomas or Marcus Thornton – each bringing a different skill set to the club, but each equally important to the teams success. Thomas does make the talent around him better than Thornton, which gives him the edge in my opinion, but if you’re talking about most important than it has to be DeMarcus Cousins. For all of the wonderfulness that Cousins can bring, he has to improve his field goal percentage and that’ll be done by taking easier shots. Big Cuz improved his FG% by 2% post All-Star break and he’ll need to continue that for the Kings to be successful.
  • Best Defensive Player:
  1. Scott - Tyreke Evans. Maybe the effort needs to be more consistent, but when Tyreke wants to shut down a player, he has the ability to do so. He guards at least two positions effectively, has extremely active hands and uses his strength/quickness combo to keep his man from penetrating.
  2. Matt - We all saw Francisco Garcia struggle mightily last season, and it got to the point where fans were actually debating whether to amnesty John Salmons or Garcia. While I don’t think Garcia will be a starter, I see a bounce back season for him defensively. Coming off the bench he will give us the type of on ball defender we have been seeking for awhile. While a case could be made for James Johnson or DeMarcus Cousins (above) I like Garcia as our best defender.
  3. Marilyn - DeMarcus Cousins is the best defensive player, ranking among top centers/ power forwards in the Western Conference. Hollinger gives him a PER of 21.72. He is a big man, who is willing to take charges, and isn’t intimidated by anyone.
  4. Bryan - From a pure “defensive rating” standpoint, DeMarcus Cousins was above and beyond the Kings’ best defender last season. Then again, actually watching him, while he certainly had his moments and could hold his own due to his size, his somewhat poor conditioning would lead to missed assignments or a lack of patience resulting in slappy hands. All things considered, he’s still the best Kings defender mostly be default. I’d love to give Tyreke Evans this nod as he undoubtedly has the skill set and ability, but far too often he doesn’t take advantage of it – only putting forth that effort for random, short bursts – usually when there is a statistic/highlight play as the ending result.
  • Top Playmaker:
  1. Scott - Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is a crafty table-setter, capable of wiggling into the lane and taking on bigger defenders. His court vision is excellent and he possesses more than enough scoring ability to keep defenses honest.
  2. Matt - This will be Tyreke Evans final year to prove he still has what it takes to be a special player in the NBA. For 2 years now, we haven’t seen anything close to the player that averaged 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds as a rookie. In the 2 years since, Evans has dealt with injuries and high expectations, which in part can be credited towards his struggles. The biggest problem with Evans has been his inability to make adjustments, but those adjustments may have finally been made in the offseason. While I don’t expect Evans to have another 20-5-5 season, his versatility to play PG, SG and SF, along with his ability to pick up rebounds and assists, make him the best playmaker for the Kings.
  3. Marilyn - Without a doubt, Isaiah Thomas is the team’s best playmaker. He is unselfish and is always looking to set up his teammates. His 26.0 assists to 10.3 turnovers rank him up with the top point guards in the Western Conference. He has a PER of 17.68 and a total shooting percentage of .574.
  4. Bryan - Isaiah Thomas, easily. Again – not to harp on Tyreke Evans, as he could put himself in this position but his game isn’t there mentally while Thomas looks advanced well beyond his age in that regard. Thomas is a very special talent who could be a top point guard in the NBA with a few more inches under his belt. Then again – as determined as Thomas is, he’s going to be a top point guard in the NBA even without those inches – and nobody is going to tell him different.
  • Most Clutch:
  1. Scott - Marcus Thornton. All Thornton has done since coming to Sacramento is make big shots. I’ll trust MT23 with the rock and the game on the line any time and live with the result.
  2. Matt - This is more of a gut feeling then going off a track record. While at times Tyreke Evans has shown flashes with game winners, I don’t think he can be relied upon in crunch time. Isaiah Thomas already had a chip on his shoulder last season after being “Mr. Irrelevant”. IT dazzled across the nation going from bench scrub to Sacramento Kings starting PG. Despite the incredible rookie season, Thomas got little respect in Rookie of the Year voting. All this adds up to is a very angry Isaiah Thomas, who will be looking to put the nail in the coffin on every opponent. We saw Thomas close in college, now as the starting PG for 82 games, I think come crunch time he will be “The Closer”.
  3. Marilyn - It is probably a toss up between Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. If a team is looking for a quick grab and shoot, Thornton is probably the guy, while Tyreke is the one to drive to the basket. They both revel in having the ball and making those end-of-the game-winning shots.
  4. Bryan - As Marilyn mentioned, Tyreke Evans can be clutch as well as he has multiple game wining moments in his short career, but for me, it’s Marcus Thornton who seems to thrive in big time situations – at least offensively. On the defensive side, Evans possess the best quickness and agility to defend a shot taker, so if I need a defensive stopper – I go with Evans. If I need a shot, it’s Thornton. I’d love to see DeMarcus come into his own this season as a clutch player on the offensive end, but he needs to slow his footwork down before he’ll be reliable in that regard.
  • Most Underrated:
  1. Scott - Jason Thompson. Surprisingly, Cousins is a candidate, but Thompson’s steady contributions across the board don’t always pique the interest of those outside of Sacramento. And the big man is still polishing his skills on both ends, meaning he can get better.
  2. Matt - I still don’t understand why the James Johnson trade isn’t getting any attention. Johnson is exactly what the Kings needed last season, a wing defender who doesn’t need to score to help the team win. Last season as a member of the Toronto Raptors, Johnson led the team in blocks and steals. Now while he will never be relied upon as a scorer, he will become a difference maker on defense.  Starting today, I want to start hearing more fans talk about James Johnson.
  3. Marilyn - Isaiah Thomas. I personally think a lot of this stems around his height at 5’9”, despite the fact that he is one of the best defenders on the team.
  4. Bryan - Can I just pick D) all the above like I did when I didn’t know the answer in high school? You could really pick a handful of guys here as Sacramento is generally slept on by everybody but their faithful. Cousins has somewhat forced his way to be in the conversation for top young talents in the NBA, so if I had to pick I’d go with Isaiah Thomas. Many outside of Sacramento were just surprised the last pick of the NBA Draft would get floor time in his rookie year, let alone play a decent game. Thomas is so much more than that though, so for that reasoning, I give Thomas the edge. He’s always been doubted and continues to prove the doubts wrong. After being snubbed on both the Rookie All-Star team and in the All-Rookie teams,  the chip on Thomas’ shoulder will only grow and outside fans are bound to take notice.
  • Best New Addition:
  1. Scott - Thomas Robinson. There were only three new additions, and while I like all three, Robinson is the only one with true star potential. It will be exciting to line him up next to Cousins and watch them develop together
  2. Matt - This is an easy pick, so thank you to Geoff Petrie for making the smart pick this year. I was high on Thomas Robinson along with many others coming into the draft. His hustle and rebounding ability were unmatched aside from Anthony Davis.
  3. Marilyn - In the short term, I think James Johnson is going to prove to be the best addition this season, because he is filling a hole that dogged the team last year. Aaron Brooks is a question mark for the moment. Thomas Robinson, will probably be the best addition, long-term, but he still needs to get his footing in his rookie season.
  4. Bryan - Thomas Robinson is the clear answer if you’re talking long term, but for this upcoming season, I really like the addition of James Johnson. He’s far from flashy and at times thinks he’s much more of a scorer than he really is, but he brings a hard nosed game that won over many fans in Toronto – unfortunately for him, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey wasn’t one of them. Whatever issue the two had with each other, we’ll probably never know but he has a clean slate in Sacramento and I expect a very solid season from him. His ability to defend multiple positions and do so at a high level, without needing the ball to be effective is a welcome addition as it was a glaring weakness of last years squad.
  • Key Difference Maker:
  1. Scott - Jimmer Fredette. The Kings need Jimmer to, at the very least, display the shooting prowess he showed in college. Sacramento craves a dependable shooter on the bench (depending on how the lineup shapes up) and fans have every right to expect Fredette to be that guy.
  2. Matt - While Jason Thompson may not be the Kings starting PF by the All Star Break, even coming off the bench he will be a difference maker. Thompson has never been suited to be a 30 minutes per game PF. He is an energy guy, who can come off the bench and pick up rebounds while Cousins or Robinson rest. Thompson just got a handsome new deal for the next 5 years, which hopefully will give him the confidence he needs to play well. Coming off the bench, JT could be a serious difference maker when the team needs rebounding late in games.
  3. Marilyn - Tyreke Evans may be pivotal to how the team fairs this season. He is due for a breakout season beyond his Rookie of the Year performance. This could be his year.
  4. Bryan -  Generally, I think you know what you’re going to get out of most Kings this year, at least from the impact players – except for one, Tyreke Evans. Evans, who admitted he had some conditioning issues last year seems determined to return to his Rookie of the Year form as he’s been working on his game at a relentless pace this offseason. Potentially up for a contract at season end (he’s restricted) Evans needs a big improvement for the ’12-13 season – not so much statistically, but mentally where his game seems to lack behind. Does he have it in him? We all certainly hope so – but it’s up to him to make the needed adjustments.

 

Stay tuned for part two and part three of A Royal Pain’s 2012-2013 Sacramento Kings preview, as well as our individual player previews, coming in the next few days.

Tags: DeMarcus Cousins Featured Isaiah Thomas Sacramento Kings Tyreke Evans